“The best part of the industry is fabulous.”
So said Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke last week while heralding the success of the industry’s CSCS card scheme, which has just celebrated its 10th birthday. For all its many faults, our industry at the top end can compete with any in the world, Clarke argued in his rabble-rousing speech. He pointed out how much more the industry needs to change, but also how far it has come already. Clarke reckoned that with the maturing PFI market and the rise of design-and-build contracts, the UK industry has significantly “lifted its game”, and is five years ahead of most other Western construction sectors.
Our industry occasionally needs such jolts of confidence. For all its troubles – those contractual difficulties declared by Gleeson, Mowlem and Alfred McAlpine recently have underlined how close the sector always is to slipping on a proverbial banana skin – it pays to remind ourselves that UK Construction Plc has moved on in recent times. Double the amount of public projects are being completed on budget compared with 1999, according to last month’s National Audit Office report. And just as crucially the NAO report found examples where projects provided the right quality as well as the right price tag.
Clarke’s reminder is especially apposite when considering London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics. We may still be behind Paris, according to the bookmakers and the capital’s mayor Ken Livingstone, but the gap is narrowing. And in the wake of a positive inspection from International Olympic Committee inspectors in February – leaks in the press this week claimed the technical aspect of the bid matches that of Paris – some of the anti-London arguments seem to be weakening. The project managers in charge of the bid say the infrastructure for visitors to get to and from the facilities is as much in place in London as in Paris (see pages 24-27). And, significantly for our industry, they claim that the capacity of the London market to build the £8.3bn programme is greater than most previous host cities. After all, three of the chunkiest London construction jobs – the Wembley and Arsenal stadiums and Heathrow’s Terminal 5 – will be completed in 2007, ahead of the main bulk of Olympic work going on site. So the message is: we can build it. As Clarke pointed out, with reference to CSCS card take-up, targets can achieve results. And this target really could prove our industry’s worth.
With such positive thoughts in mind, Building is doing its bit to drum up as much support as possible in the run-up to July’s decision on the host city. We will be putting the bid at the centre stage of the Building Awards at the end of the month as well as covering the main issues concerned with the bid over the next four weeks. And we hope to enlist your backing. If you haven’t already, you can register support on the official bid website – www.london2012.org.
We also want a tally of how many staff at each firm support the bid – so please email the details to Lucy Bond (email@example.com) and the firms that register the most votes will be mentioned in our ongoing coverage of the bid this month. Every vote will help UK construction prove it can compete and win on a global scale.
Phil Clark, deputy editor